December 1, 2021 15:21
Steve and Dan, 2000 (with our original wine label)
Harvest Memories and Feelings
One of the many things that makes this craft I get to ply so absorbing is that each vintage is not merely about the wine, and the hedonic qualities of that year. All that has happened for both a wine and the humans who touched it, from budbreak until it is enjoyed in your glass, is condensed into each bottle from that year’s offerings, and morphed by your state of mind while consuming it. Each vintage I drink brings me to memories and feelings. Just a few below:
1993 for me will always be the vintage Jamie was born, June 11 (2 weeks late, because he always loves and lingers wherever he happens to be, and has ever since); also making La Crema at huge Vinwood that year; a long, cold vintage; big crop, chardonnay rot, La Crema “Grand Cuvee”; Loie bringing our baby boy to the winery so he could see his daddy at midnight (when she finally got off work herself!).
1994- Jess buying the bankrupt Laurier facility for La Crema – cool, perfect ripening season (clueless but determined winemaker); rain in September – special fruit in October; insanely busy Steve Dutton driving trucks for the ranch, using my sweet office or my car while waiting for his fruit to be processed; tasting the ‘94s with Jess and Tom Selfridge during incessant January (1995) rains; creating “Hartford Court” from some of those (still) great wines; fleeing floods while doing blends with dear Tom Milligan; our brilliant daughter Emily being born the only day it didn’t rain that month, 1/11/95 (and like the ’95 vintage, concentrated and mighty).
1998 – the first (stealth) year of Dutton-Goldfield; Rod Berglund crushed our Pinots as a favor, Steve brought the fermenters up our driveway on his loader; the kids complained that we paid too much attention to the fermenters, not enough to them; Steve and I proudly sweeping up under our (perfectly straight of course) few rows of barrels at Windsor Oaks at 2 a.m.; Loie’s Dad Marnie falling down the concrete steps right on his head there, before he knew he had Parkinson’s.
2010 – crazy cold/ hot / cold / hot year, lots of fruit lost; sorting Freestone at 102 degrees in late September and getting yelled at by winemaker at custom facility for going too slowly and wasting dry ice (no change occurred in speed or dry ice usage by still determined, but not so clueless winemaker) – still one of my favorite wines to show off. Sorting to the Giants first World Series win that year.
Every vintage since my first in 1985 at Mondavi brings its memory flood of friends, weather, challenges, fears, lessons, bike rides, post-harvest mountain climbs, mentors.
2021 has been an intense harvest. The fruit was truly wonderful, producing wines of plush opulence, great phenolic ripeness, and a great sense of place. It was a great blessing after the fire blowout for pinot in 2020. It was also a year of stress with the drought, and difficulty in production with the travel restrictions of Covid eliminating foreign interns.
But for me 2021 will be Johnny’s harvest. Our dear friend Johnny Gonnella left us on November 20. He moved on with the love, courage, dignity and support with which he lived. He brought out the best in each of us.
Johnny and his family—the Gonnellas, Negris, Rossinis (our dear Marianne and Barbara at DG), Calvis—are at the core of our special town of Occidental. To partake of their love, support, acceptance, great times, and great nature has been a huge blessing in my life and I think part of the soul of our little winery: Valerie making sure we were part of the firefighter fundraiser every year, for which Johnny cooked about a million chickens a year, or Steve checking out Johnny’s pot operation in the hills a few years back—both of them multigenerational locals who so care about this place.
This sharing is not a sad one, though Johnny will be deeply missed and always loved. It is about the independence of spirit, hospitality, community caring, and love of fun that I so cherish in this place I get to live. For as long as I’m able to drink the truly exceptional 2021 vintage I will think of the challenges of the Covid year, the vagaries of my personal life, the pleasures of Jamie and Emily’s lives, the weather patterns; but mostly I will toast to Johnny, who so embodied our community.
Wines can be like Hogwarts memory potions to concentrate and recreate the feelings of life experience (remember the pensieve?). And just because as a consumer you weren’t part of a given wine’s early evolution doesn’t preclude reflecting on the sweep of time in which this simple drink has been crafted and aged alongside you. For me I remember the spring of the 1969 Burgundies; the hail, but amazing wines from there in 1971; or my life when I bought my first amazing 1978 Napa Cab; that 1969 DRC Richebourg, bought in Jersey in 1977 and drank by a fire, melting with my brother in Vermont that fall—that bottle has seen a lot!
All of us have our stories in our lives. Stories that come back to the people who were there, and the excitement, anticipation, absorption, beauty and love we shared.
I am grateful for the freedom I am given to pursue this craft, and the deeply caring community that makes it possible, both my professional colleagues and our family of DG customers. I am so struck by the number of humans who have an essential part in bringing each and every bottle of wine to whomever gets to drink it.
Craft, at its best, is a human interplay, continuation, perpetuation of nature. It is like the Greek allegory of Zeus and Prometheus creating humans from clay, and Athena breathing life into them; but once created they are their own beings with their individual, self-guided trajectories. Wine is so like that—it is certainly not yours once it’s in the bottle. And more importantly for me, it is not the wine itself, but the feeling that wine helps elicit in people sharing it together that makes it special. The more evocative the wine, the greater it may help to enhance your experience, but it has no value in and of itself. The possibilities for sharing are infinite. May they be beautiful and bring people together.
True art only really exists in the (universal) mind. The physical execution of a vision is what I think of as craft. The best executed craft, whether in writing, poetry, music, cabinetry, painting, inspires the creative inspiration that is art in the mind of another. It would be an honor for us at Dutton-Goldfield to be any small part of enhancing your artistry, love, togetherness and feeling of connection in this world we share.
Another look to the past...
2014 Trio Gift Package
We really loved the 2014 Pinots when we tasted them just before harvest. They are at that perfect place where they've gained depth, breadth, and some savory notes from a few years in the bottle, while still retaining their core of vivid fruit. We've selected three of our favorites from the vintage for this gift package.
Raiding the Library: 2014 Trio Gift Package
2014 Angel Camp Vineyard Pinot Noir
2014 Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir
2014 McDougall Vineyard Pinot Noir
Includes gift box, wine notes, and a tasting certificate.
Plus 75% off UPS ground shipping: $6 to California, $7.50 to other continental US states
Need to get started on your holiday gifts? We're here to help! We've put together our largest assortment of gift packages this year. But if you're not finding exactly what you want, we're also happy to customize your gift packages for you. In addition to the delicious wine, all gift packages include:
- Presentation in a handsome gift box.
- Your special gift message.
- A certificate for a complimentary tasting for 4 people at our tasting room—an added $120 value.
- UPS Ground shipping at 75% off—that's just $6 to $7.50 for our 2- and 3-bottle packages
Important Holiday Shipping Deadlines
As we're sure you've heard, shipping companies are inundated even more this season, so we recommend ordering before these dates to ensure your packages arrive before the holidays. But even if your gift arrives after that, we promise they'll still love it!
Yes, it is December already!
We're not sure how it happened either, but we've got what you need to help stop time and capture it in a memory.
Your friends at DG